Coach Jonathan Edwards answers a question he receives frequently. Should lacrosse goalies leave the cage? He cites some examples of times it is beneficial to leave the cage and gives tips on how to make ventures away from the cage successful. While the rule of thumb is that it is generally unwise, Coach Edwards encourages coaches to empower their goalies rather than fearing the times when a goalie leaves the cage.

0:18 – Coach Edwards explains how lacrosse goalies can recognize goal line extended.
0:54 – Young goalies can get away with leaving the cage, but it doesn’t work as well as players advance.
1:29 – If there’s a loose ball, a goalie can leave the cage if they can control the loose ball.
2:20 – Don’t just take off when the defensemen gets there to help with the ball or you lose your advantage.
3:29 – Sometimes a goalie can leave the cage to double the ball or if you’ve called a slide.
5:34 – It’s usually best not to leave the cage, but coaches shouldn’t be afraid if their goalies do. Empower them instead.


Coach Edwards here at and, and I want to talk about a question I get fairly frequently. If you’re in the cage and your defensemen have missed a guy and the guy’s running up the goal, should you run out of the cage to stop that player?

Goal Line Extended

There are two scenarios. One is if the player is in front of goal line extended. Goal line extended is if you took a line from post to post and you extended that line to the sideline on either side, that’s called goal line extended. If the player is above goal line extended and they’re coming straight down on you, you want to stay in the cage. Pretty much for both scenarios, you want to stay in the cage. I’m going to share with you a couple of things.

Leaving the Cage Doesn’t Stay Easy

The number one rule of thumb is that you really want to stay in the cage. Here’s what happens. At a young age, if you’re in junior high school and elementary school, if you’re a coach or parent listening to this, your little goalie can probably get away with running out of the cage and surprising the guy and defensively doing a good job. But that’s a habit that’s not going to work as they get with better players. I remember this when I was in high school and junior high school and elementary school. There are times I could get away with it, but as you get towards better and better players, it doesn’t work as easy.

Controlling the Loose Ball

Here’s the rule of thumb though. Let’s say there’s a loose ball and an offensive player is going to get it and none of your teammates are around, but you can get at it, get it at the same time that that player can, then I would recommend going. As long as you can control the loose ball. What I would do is I would run out of the cage if there was a loose ball and that attackman was getting the ball. I would fight for that loose ball until my defensemen got there. But here’s the thing. When my defensemen got there I didn’t just turn around and run to the cage, I kept fighting for the ball.

Fight for the Ball

When you do loose ball, ground ball drills with the team, what’s usually the call? Man, ball. One guy takes the man, the other guy takes the ball. In the women’s game I know you can’t do that. If you’ve got two teammates going to a ball, and there’s one player from the opposing team, one of your teammates doesn’t just all of a sudden take off. Both of you fight for the ball.

Don’t Leave and Lose the Advantage

This is the mistake a lot of goalies make. They go off, they fight for the ball and then their defensemen shows up and they leave. But now there’s no advantage, so if that offensive player gets that loose ball real easy, now you’re heading back to the cage, don’t know where the ball is, your defenseman’s all screwed up, and you still may have a one on nothing coming at you. If you’re going to go after a loose ball, when you decide to go, go. Don’t go halfway, stop, and turn around. Go. And then fight for the loose ball with your teammate.

As You Run Out It’s Easier for Them to Score

If the offensive player has the ball and they’re running at you and there’s no defenseman between you and the player, do not run out of the cage. The reason being, it’s simple geometry. As you run out of the cage you make it very easy to get scored on over your head or around you just by angles. The way to do this is with what I call a string drill. I won’t get into that now in this podcast, but maybe in another one. As you run out of the cage it’s easier for you to be scored on, okay?

Athletic Goalies

Let’s talk about plays from goal line extended into the side. If you’re a fairly athletic goalie, if you’re an athletic goalie and you’ve got good athletic mobility, you’re strong, you can play good defense, then you may be able to run out of the cage and basically coral a guy and angle them behind goal line extended. I hope that makes sense, it’s hard to explain on a podcast.

Doubling the Ball

If a player’s coming close to goal line extended, you may be able to run out of the cage and angle that player behind goal line extended where they can’t score. All they can do is pass. If you can do that while your defenseman is coming you may have a chance to double the ball, like if your defenseman and you are going out to double the ball, that’s fine. When a player is behind goal line extended, they can’t score.

Calling Slide

Here’s another scenario. Let’s say a defenseman is playing a man behind and your player trips and now that player is driving to the cage. Should you come out or not? Well, same thing. Let’s say you’re going to call slide first so that your secondary defenseman knows to slide the ball because the primary defenseman has lost their man, so you call slide. Then you should be fine. If you go, if you leave the cage, you want to make sure you’re meeting that player behind goal line extended, but you’ve really got to stay with him. Too many goalies will go out and they’ll stop that player, and then they’ll backtrack before their defenseman’s there.

Don’t Leave the Cage

The rule of thumb guys and girls is, don’t leave the cage. That’s usually the rule of thumb. However, as I just mentioned there are some examples to where it can actually be good. You can be a good threat to leave the cage. I was pretty athletic. We got into some scenarios where if we had a player behind the cage playing 1 on 1 with that attackman and that attackman rolled, and turned his back to me, just like any other player I went and doubled him. I went out and I doubled him. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, more often it worked.

Coaches, Empower Your Goalies

Coaches, don’t fear that. You want to empower your goalies to be athletic and have good stick skills and play good defense just like anybody else on the defensive half of the field. Because when you can do that you can do some fun stuff.


That’s it for today. Coach Edwards, and Do me a favor, leave me a comment below this on the blog. That will come through to me on Facebook and via email, and I can answer your questions here. As always, I really appreciate you sharing it. Leave us some good reviews on iTunes, we’d really appreciate it. Talk to you soon. Bye.





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